Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light

Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light
33 Practical Gift Ideas for Travelers
33 Practical Gift Ideas for Travelers
Tips for Packing Light
Tips for Packing Light
Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light

Anyone who’s seen my closet knows I have way too many clothes. However, when it comes to packing for my trips, I have an uncanny ability to fit my life in a backpack that meets every budget airline’s carry on size requirements. I love packing light because it makes traveling between cities so much easier, and it’s easier on my back, too! Here are my top 10 tips for packing light.

Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light

1. Get the right bag

Before we even start packing, the first step to packing light is to have the right bag. You want a bag that is compact and easily accessible. I have the Minaal 1.0 (a slightly older version of the 2.0 bag on the market right now), and it meets the requirements for a carry on bag for even the smallest, cheapest airlines, such as Ryanair or Spirit, which fly tiny planes with very little storage and that typically try to charge its customers extra for checked bags.

Minaal Bag packing light

The Minaal bag also allows me to reach all my items easily, without having to take out all the contents of my bag in order to find the one shirt I’m looking for. The bag unzips all the way down to the bottom, so you can open it up like a suitcase. This allows me to see all the contents of my bag and easily take out what I need and zip it back up without creating a mess and having to re-pack everything. I use the interior zippered pockets for smaller garments, and I pack the rest into my daypack or packing cubes, which I will discuss more below.

2. Bring versatile, low-maintenance clothing

For most people, the contents of your bag will consist mainly of clothes. Thus, finding a way to pack as little clothes as possible is a key component to packing light. Even if you are embarking on a one month journey, there is no reason to ever pack for more than 7 days, as you can easily wash your clothes by hand at almost any accommodation you may choose to stay at, even if there are no washers/dryers available. I typically try to pack for 4 days on multi-week trips, and I have never had trouble finding somewhere to wash my clothes or run out of clothes before my trip concluded.

Buckingham Palace packing light

Me in my typical outfit in front of the Buckingham Palace – black tank, black pants, and a neutral patterned scarf. Took about 15 seconds to put together (:

When deciding which clothes to pack, I typically pack only neutral colors (black, white, grey) and make sure that all my tops match all my bottoms. This way, rather than packing a bunch of outfits, I know that I’ve got multiple outfits I could wear with each item of clothing since I could wear any of my tops with any of my bottoms and it would look like a matching outfit. I will typically bring one outfit that’s a little dressier, so I know I have something to wear in case I find myself in a more formal environment. For my day-to-day clothes, my favorites are some neutral tees from Everlane and my DSTLD jeans. Here are a few of my staple pieces for packing light:

Tops:

  • Everlane Box Cut Tee – this is the perfect length for us shorter girls (I’m 5’2″) and is a soft cotton fabric.
  • Everlane Drop Shoulder Tee – a very classic tee, also very soft, and the slight slit design on the sides is a nice added touch.
  • Everlane Cotton Tank – this is your classic tank, although a bit longer than I’d like (again, I am on the shorter side), so I typically wear it tied up or tucked in.
  • Everlane Ryan Long Sleeve – I typically stow this away in my bag and put it on over whatever I’m wearing if it gets a bit chilly. It’s very thin, so it folds up very small and you can stuff it right into your daypack.

Bottoms:

  • Everlane Street Fleece Pant – this feels like a sweatpant but can be dressed up to look much more put together. It is a bit thicker, though, so I’d recommend it only for cooler temperatures.
  • DSTLD High-Waisted Skinny Jean – these fit like $300 jeans but with a lot more stretch, and they are only $75! I have the black ones, which easily pair with just about anything.
  • DSTLD High-Waisted Shorts – these are the same fabric as the skinny jeans, and they’re a steal at only $35! These are pretty short, though, so I would consider bringing a longer pair depending on where you are traveling.
  • American Apparel High-Waist Jean Cutoff Short – I am all about the high-waisted bottoms + cropped top look, so as an alternative to the DSTLD shorts, I will sometimes pack a pair of these American Apparel shorts.

Shoes:

  • Steve Madden Troopas – these are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned, and they are so versatile. I have worn them out to the bars at night as well as on hikes during the day, and they go with everything.
  • Vans Classic Slip On Skate Shoe – these are the most comfortable shoes and match everything. The only downside is the white shoes get dirty easily, but between these and my Troopas, I really can’t foresee any situation where I’d need any other shoes.
Barcelona murals packing light

Me in my “dressy” clothes in Barcelona. Other than this shirt, all my clothes are black/white/grey.

As for fabric, I personally love cotton, but cotton is not a good space-saving fabric, nor is it a quick-drying fabric. Most would agree that the most versatile and low-maintenance fabric to travel with is merino wool. A few benefits of merino wool are that it is breathable, keeps you cool in the heat and warm in the cold, does not wrinkle easily, is odor- and stain-resistant, and is very soft and comfortable to wear. I am not recommending that you go out and buy an entirely new merino wool wardrobe (I sure haven’t yet), but at a minimum, I would recommend getting some merino wool socks, as you will be able to get pretty far with just a couple of pairs. SmartWool and Icebreaker are two popular brands for merino wool products.

3. And a micro-fiber towel

Right now you’re probably thinking I’m going to talk about the best towel to use for showering. That’s true – but a micro-fiber towel is good for so much more than just that. Because it is quick drying, you can also use it for folding around wet or damp clothes that you may have just washed and not had time to let dry or just brought back from the beach. Not only will the micro-fiber towel prevent the rest of your bag from getting wet from your wet clothes, it will actually help your clothes to dry faster. Several times I have packed a damp shirt in my micro-fiber towel, traveled to a new city, and when I opened my bag again, my shirt was dry.Shandali Microfiber Towel packing light

Needless to say, this towel is great for showering as well. It is very thin and folds up so that it barely takes up any space, and it of course dries very quickly after your shower. I have had the Shandali Micro-fiber Towel towel for over two years and have brought it with me on multiple trips, and I have had no complaints.

4. Roll your clothes

This is a classic trick that most people probably already know about. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them saves space, so if you’re finding yourself having a hard time fitting all your clothes in your bag, try rolling them instead. Rolling your clothes also helps reduce wrinkles, so that’s an added bonus.

5. Wear your layers

If you need to bring thicker layers or coats, try to wear as many of those thicker layers as you’re able to, since those take up more space in your bag. You can always take off those layers and store them in the overhead compartment as soon as you get on the plane if you do not want to wear bulky layers during your flight.

Iceland Cold packing light

Ok, so it was legitimately THAT cold in Iceland, but talk about wearing your layers!

6. Pack a daypack

As an alternative to using packing cubes, I oftentimes will pack some clothes inside a daypack, which I will then pack inside my Minaal backpack. My favorite daypack is the Tortuga Packable Daypack because it’s lightweight, has organization compartments, and easy to roll up and stow away in case I don’t want to use it as a packing cube inside my backpack.

UPDATE: One of my biggest complaints about the Tortuga Packable Daypack is that it wasn’t very waterproof. I brought it on a hike in Norway last summer when it was raining, and I ended up turning back mid-hike because I was afraid my camera would suffer water damage from sitting in my backpack. I recently discovered the NeatPack Foldable Backpack, which has all the features of the Tortuga Packable Daypack but does a much better job of repelling water. It also has a secret zipper pocket at the bottom of the backpack, where you can hide valuables such as cash, passport, etc., or simply use to store your dirty laundry or sandals for the beach. You can buy it on Amazon and use code MVM10OFF for a 10% discount.

If you do want to use packing cubes, however, a couple of solid ones for backpackers are the Eagle Creek Pack It Specter Cube and the Sea to Summit Travelling Light Garment Mesh Bag, both of which you can find on Amazon.

7. Consolidate camera components

If you are like me, and a lot of other travel bloggers, you want to bring a quality camera with you on your trips but also contemplate whether the bulkiness of the camera is worth dealing with for the high quality photos. The answer for me was always yes, but not at the expense of a much reduced wardrobe and other necessities. For a while, I used a bulky camera bag for my DSLR camera and a few lenses, which took up almost half of my backpack. However, I recently discovered these neoprene sleeves, which keep my camera and lenses protected but greatly reduces the bulk. Even better, you can get a set of sleeves for your camera and three lenses for less than $20 USD.

Iceland photography packing light

Hope capturing some stunning photography in Iceland.

8. Carabiner clips

One of the most useful additions to my backpack are my black carabiner clips, which I use to hold my water bottle, jackets, or any extra bulky item that the carabiner can clip on to. I have the Bluecell carabiner clips, which unfortunately have been discontinued, but you can find similar ones here. I bought a pack of five carabiner clips about five years ago, and I haven’t had a single one break yet. I always clip a couple onto my backpack before I leave, since I never know when I’ll need one.

9. Ditch the liquids

Typically when I travel for two weeks or less, I will bring my own toiletries, including all my liquids, in these handy silicone containers. These are far superior to the plastic bottles because it is much easier to squeeze out the last of the liquids in these silicone bottles than it is in the plastic bottles. An additional bonus to these bottles is that the bottles come with pre-printed labels on the inside of the bottle, so all you have to do is twist the bottle to the correct label, and voila – your bottle is properly labeled for its contents.

If I travel for longer than two weeks, however, I typically will not bring any liquids, as most places you travel to will have your basic toiletries, such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste, and I would not be able to fit one-month’s worth of liquids into my liquids bag. Thus, for longer trips, I would recommend ditching the liquids completely.

10. Go au naturel

This tip is mostly for the ladies, but I’ve noticed that since I started traveling, I’ve greatly reduced, if not eliminated, my makeup routine. It really is a hassle when you’re staying in dorm-style hostels to apply loads of makeup every morning, so I cut my makeup routine and noticed that not only am I able to get ready in the mornings in a fraction of the time it used to take, but that I was actually a lot more relaxed throughout the day as well, as I didn’t feel the need to constantly check to see if my makeup was still on properly or if it had been smudged all over my face from the rain. It also saves a lot of space in my toiletries bag. I use the Sea to Summit Travelling Light Hanging Toiletry Bag, which is on the small size for toiletry bags, but fits everything I need. My favorite part about this toiletry bag is that it has a clip hidden on the inside of the bag that allows you to hang the bag on the back of a door or anywhere with a hook, making the contents of your bag easily accessible to you while you get ready.

Barcelona travels packing light

Loving the au naturel life in Barcelona.

Hope our tips for packing light were helpful to you! Do you have any other packing tips? Please let us know in the comments below!

Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light | MVMT Blog

MVMT Blog

Author: Diana Chen

Recently left my job as an attorney to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life. I blog about traveling the world with a full time job, confronting your travel addiction, and pursuing your passions without going broke. Just got back from a month-long trip to Southeast Asia and currently prepping for Cuba.

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45 thoughts on “Our Top 10 Tips for Packing Light

  1. Girl, you NAILED this! I was reading it just thinking… this is exactly what I do! The hanging toiletry bag is a game changer, as is the microfiber towel. Have you ever used compression bags? That really helped me when I was living out of a backpack!

    1. Thanks, Jenn! I haven’t found the need to use compression bags yet to be honest, but I will definitely look into getting some if I ever run into trouble fitting everything into my backpack! Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. What a great post! I am going to have investigate all of these as i am moving to Canada and want to limit my crap. So much of this I can use, especially the Minaal bag! Very informative post and refreshing read!

  3. These are all fantastic suggestions! I am loving your backpack suggestion – will look into this. I’ve been using a lightweight cabin approved suitcase from Samsonite, which I love, but sometimes I just want a good backpack. The rolling clothes has been my lifesaver! It makes everything fit so perfectly into the bag without hassle. And I totally agree with you about the makeup routine – I have ditched so much of it. Now a light powder is all I really use.

    1. There are some good suitcases out there, but I just find it much easier to explore a new city with a backpack than trying to roll my suitcase around the cobblestone streets of Europe! I’ve done that before too, and it was such a pain!

  4. Last year I backpacked the first time for 5 months. I was so fascinated that you really don’t need much. My backpack was like 10kg and it was amazing. I basically did what you wrote so great tips!!!

  5. Can I start off by saying that I read a LOT of these packing posts. I have a huge type ‘A’ personality and am always trying to find the perfect packing solution so I can travel light. Your tips are probably the most helpful and comprehensive that I’ve read so far, and really, I’d almost given up on reading any more about it. Like you, I am short, wear neutral colors, and minimize my make-up routine in the name of easier packing. So yeah, thanks for sharing. This is perfect!

  6. The older I get the worse I get at packing, and the funny thing is I always end up wearing like one or two outfits out of all the stuff I end up packing. All of these are great suggestions. I’ve been rolling my clothes for awhile, not only saves space but makes them less wrinkly.

  7. These are great tips. I love that bag. I thought mine was good, but it has nowhere near as many compartments as that one! I’m really proud of how minimal I can pack these days, but always room for improvement!

  8. I can pack light when I have to but usual reserve that for weekend only trips lol. I would struggle with only two pairs of shoes but totally agree on the makeup. Lip gloss, eyeliner and mascara is making an effort when I travel. I have no issue with sans makeup at all ?

  9. Yasss so many awesome tips in this one! Your outfits are SO cute and similar to how I like to dress when I’m travelling. I hate looking like a typical ‘backpacker’ when I pack light, so these tips are all genius. BTW good to see you have such positive opinions of Everlane! I’ve been eyeing their stuff for a while but I’ve never made a purchase. Love their minimalist style though!

    1. Thank you , Christina! I would highly recommend checking out Everlane. I love their minimalist style as well and have found most of their cotton clothes to be very soft, and I love their linen line for the summer.

  10. Really helpful, thanks! I find packing dresses really works for me, especially if I’m going to be in different climates. In cold weather, I can wear a dress with tights, a scarf, and a coat. When it gets hot, I can still wear the dress minus all the accessories!

  11. Great post! I definitely agree with versatile, low maintenance clothes. I tend to lean toward black and gray clothes and if I add color then it’s with a maroon headband or scarf. Part of our trip including hiking up mountains so we needed to make sure the material dried relatively quick and didn’t need to be washed after only one use.
    When it comes to packing light I try to pack items that have at least two uses and aren’t very expensive since you can damage or lose something if traveling long term. Sarong and bandana are two of my cheap must pack items for light, long term travel.

  12. Plenty of great tips, ladies! I’m always amazed by how people can pack for winter in a carry-on while I was dangerously exceeding weight limit flying budget airline (aka super strict and tight baggage rules) on a few-day trip to Bali. You know what, I’m going to buy a microfibre towel after seeing your post!

  13. I think the Queen would have been impressed with your light packing techniques! The neoprene sleeves for the lenses and camera are a good idea. That’s what annoys me most about traveling is somewhere to put the lenses. Although if I’m in a dangerous country I just take a bridge camera. Great post, a lot of thought and experience has been put into it, you need to do one with clothes for us guys too, I don’t think I’d get away with a drop shoulder tee!

    1. Haha thanks, James. I’ll have to survey some male travelers and gather a list of clothing options for men who don’t fancy wearing a drop shoulder tee on their travels 😉 I hadn’t heard about a bridge camera until recently, otherwise I definitely would have looked into getting one. I just got a GoPro and tend to bring that with me everywhere now since it takes up so little space and is very versatile and hard to break.

  14. Those are some great tips. I am also a light packer. In an average travel, I carry just few T shirts, pajamas and slippers. If it is an official trip. I do end up going overboard in packing. I am trying to control that urge to pack more on official trips.

    1. It is much harder to pack light when there’s a suit involved, so I don’t blame you at all! Despite packing pretty light already, I still feel like I am overpacking on most of my trips. It’s a learning process for sure!

  15. Really great guide. I like the idea of the sleeves for cameras, I seem to be dumping my lenses in my bag (in a towel) so much and I know one day I am going to do some damage to them. I always pack far too much, so much I recently broke my bag, oops. Bookmarked for my next trip.

  16. What a great checklist for minimalist packing! I love that bag. I usually use my daypack as a carryon with laptop, camera, snacks, etc., but I like the idea of using it in lieu of a packing cube.

  17. I love your tips on what to bring. I usually end up with only casuals and nothing dressy. I need to work on that as I always look so blend in pictures (regardless of the colourful scarf). I did manage to pack 4 weeks of liquids for my travels to South America. Turns out you need far less shampoo than you think, toothpaste the same. I was sooo proud for my mini liquids bag to cover 4 weeks (ok the last week it was a bit of a scrape). I do need to look into those silicone bottles. They look amazing

    1. So true about the shampoo, Naomi. Even with long hair, I’ve surprised myself by how far a small bottle of shampoo will go while traveling. I love the silicone bottles because you can squeeze every last drop out of them, whereas it’s hard to get liquids from the bottom out of the plastic bottles. Happy travels!

  18. Rolling clothes is such a space saver. Ditching liquids and only packing minimal makeup also saves me plenty of space. I had not thought of the micro fiber towel, that is a neat trick.

  19. These are great tips. I have never been able to fit all my stuff into a backpack ever -even though I don’t use make-up and I have a bridge camera that fits in my handbag. The micro-fibre towel sounds amazing. I’m going to get one of those.

  20. Some fantastic tips! Rolling clothes is a great piece of advise! When we are going somewhere for just a few days or a week or so, we roll outfits together! 🙂 makes it a lot easier to get ready in the morning

  21. These are great tips! I’ve been slowly trying to make myself pack less and less on each trip. I definitely want to check out that Minnal bag– looks amazing!

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